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Challenges of justice in the context of plant genetic resources


Deplazes-Zemp, Anna (2019). Challenges of justice in the context of plant genetic resources. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10:1266.

Abstract

In this article, I discuss access and benefit-sharing (ABS) for plant genetic resources from an ethical perspective. This leads to the question of what types of justice actually play a role when more equity and fairness is demanded for plant genetic resources. Five dimensions of justice will be distinguished: classical distributive justice, which deals with a fair distribution of goods; commutative justice, which concerns a fair exchange of “give-and-receive”; justice as recognition, which relates to treating all involved parties with the same respect; reparative justice, which pertains to fair amendments for wrongful actions in the past; and procedural justice, which is concerned with just decision processes. Drawing on the discussion of ethical problems with biopiracy, the distribution of environmental burdens, and plant genetic resources in agriculture, I will illustrate that the use of genetic resources poses challenges across all five dimensions of justice. Because the combination of justice challenges is specific for each case of resource use, I will argue that it is important that users of genetic resources are aware of the complexity of justice problems to ensure fair and equitable ABS negotiations.

“Justice” is a paramount ideal underlying the debates on how to regulate and use plant genetic resources. We discuss questions such as Who has rights to access and use these resources? How should benefits be shared? How should the use of genetic resources be regulated?Who should be involved in discussing these questions? All of these are questions concerning justice. They are asked and discussed with the aim of finding answers that take into account what is due to all those who have a stake in genetic resources. I have written this overview article from an understanding of justice in analytic philosophy.1 Although there is wide agreement that justice is important, there may be different views on what it means to safeguard justice in the development of policy as well as in specific access and benefit sharing negotiations. One reason for such disagreement is that justice is a concept with different dimensions. I will distinguish between five such dimensions, which all play a role in dealing with genetic resources. The aim of this analysis is to contribute to the understanding of first, why the use of genetic resources generates so much attention and controversy, and second, what needs to be considered in regulating and handling them justly. By discussing these issues, I am addressing not only philosophers but also an interdisciplinary readership, hoping that the article provides an occasion for them to take a step back from the everyday occupation with genetic resources and to reflect on the ethical implications associated with their use. Ideally, this will contribute toward bringing more justice reflections into the drafting or implementing of regulatory schemes. Moreover, these reflections may facilitate specific access and benefit-sharing (ABS) negotiations, which may be complicated by the fact that the different parties are prioritizing different dimensions of justice possibly without awareness of this source of disagreement.

After a brief introduction of the conception of justice underlying this article, each of the five dimensions of justice will be presented separately. For this purpose, I will start with a general introduction of the particularities of the respective justice dimension followed by a discussion of the role that it plays in the context of genetic resources. In doing so, I will draw on my own previous research and connect it to the philosophical work of other authors, for instance, Bram de Jonge and Doris Schroeder. Moreover, I will connect the literature on justice for genetic resources with parallel discourses on environmental justice or restorative justice. The presentation of the five dimensions of justice will be followed by the discussion of three practical justice challenges to illustrate how the justice dimensions meet: first, biopiracy; second, the distribution of environmental burdens; and third, plant genetic resources in agriculture. The article will close with two practical conclusions for a fair and equitable use of plant genetic resources.

Abstract

In this article, I discuss access and benefit-sharing (ABS) for plant genetic resources from an ethical perspective. This leads to the question of what types of justice actually play a role when more equity and fairness is demanded for plant genetic resources. Five dimensions of justice will be distinguished: classical distributive justice, which deals with a fair distribution of goods; commutative justice, which concerns a fair exchange of “give-and-receive”; justice as recognition, which relates to treating all involved parties with the same respect; reparative justice, which pertains to fair amendments for wrongful actions in the past; and procedural justice, which is concerned with just decision processes. Drawing on the discussion of ethical problems with biopiracy, the distribution of environmental burdens, and plant genetic resources in agriculture, I will illustrate that the use of genetic resources poses challenges across all five dimensions of justice. Because the combination of justice challenges is specific for each case of resource use, I will argue that it is important that users of genetic resources are aware of the complexity of justice problems to ensure fair and equitable ABS negotiations.

“Justice” is a paramount ideal underlying the debates on how to regulate and use plant genetic resources. We discuss questions such as Who has rights to access and use these resources? How should benefits be shared? How should the use of genetic resources be regulated?Who should be involved in discussing these questions? All of these are questions concerning justice. They are asked and discussed with the aim of finding answers that take into account what is due to all those who have a stake in genetic resources. I have written this overview article from an understanding of justice in analytic philosophy.1 Although there is wide agreement that justice is important, there may be different views on what it means to safeguard justice in the development of policy as well as in specific access and benefit sharing negotiations. One reason for such disagreement is that justice is a concept with different dimensions. I will distinguish between five such dimensions, which all play a role in dealing with genetic resources. The aim of this analysis is to contribute to the understanding of first, why the use of genetic resources generates so much attention and controversy, and second, what needs to be considered in regulating and handling them justly. By discussing these issues, I am addressing not only philosophers but also an interdisciplinary readership, hoping that the article provides an occasion for them to take a step back from the everyday occupation with genetic resources and to reflect on the ethical implications associated with their use. Ideally, this will contribute toward bringing more justice reflections into the drafting or implementing of regulatory schemes. Moreover, these reflections may facilitate specific access and benefit-sharing (ABS) negotiations, which may be complicated by the fact that the different parties are prioritizing different dimensions of justice possibly without awareness of this source of disagreement.

After a brief introduction of the conception of justice underlying this article, each of the five dimensions of justice will be presented separately. For this purpose, I will start with a general introduction of the particularities of the respective justice dimension followed by a discussion of the role that it plays in the context of genetic resources. In doing so, I will draw on my own previous research and connect it to the philosophical work of other authors, for instance, Bram de Jonge and Doris Schroeder. Moreover, I will connect the literature on justice for genetic resources with parallel discourses on environmental justice or restorative justice. The presentation of the five dimensions of justice will be followed by the discussion of three practical justice challenges to illustrate how the justice dimensions meet: first, biopiracy; second, the distribution of environmental burdens; and third, plant genetic resources in agriculture. The article will close with two practical conclusions for a fair and equitable use of plant genetic resources.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology > Center for Ethics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Plant Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:Plant Science
Language:English
Date:25 October 2019
Deposited On:23 Jan 2020 08:10
Last Modified:27 May 2021 07:29
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1664-462X
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.01266
PubMed ID:31708939

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